DEBITO.ORG
Arudou Debito/Dave Aldwinckle's Home Page

New ebooks by ARUDOU Debito

  • Book IN APPROPRIATE: A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan
  • Sakanaka in Japan Times: Japan as we know it is doomed, only immigrants can save it

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on October 22nd, 2012

    Books etc. by ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
    UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
    DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

    Hello Blog. My old friend Sakanaka Hidenori, who has had his writings featured on Debito.org in the past, has bravely spoken out once again to talk about Japan’s inevitable decline into oblivion if present trends continue. He calls for a revolution through immigration and… well, let me excerpt from the Japan Times article on him that came out yesterday.  Says things that have also been said here for a long, long time.  Arudou Debito

    /////////////////////////////////////

    ‘Only immigrants can save Japan’
    The Japan Times, October 21, 2012
    By MICHAEL HOFFMAN, Special to The Japan Times

    PHOTO CAPTION: Face of change: Hidenori Sakanaka, the former Justice Ministry bureaucrat and Tokyo Immigration Bureau chief fears the nation is on the brink of collapse, and says “we must welcome 10 million immigrants between now and 2050.”

    Japan as we know it is doomed.

    Only a revolution can save it.

    What kind of revolution?

    Japan must become “a nation of immigrants.”

    That’s a hard sell in this notoriously closed country. Salesman-in-chief — surprisingly enough — is a retired Justice Ministry bureaucrat named Hidenori Sakanaka, former head of the ministry’s Tokyo Immigration Bureau and current executive director of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute, a private think tank he founded in 2007.

    It’s an unlikely resume for a sower of revolution. Sakanaka clearly sees himself as such. His frequent use of the word “revolution” suggests a clear sense of swimming against the current. Other words he favors — “utopia,” “panacea” — suggest the visionary.

    “Japan as we know it” is in trouble on many fronts. The Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, and the subsequent tsunami and nuclear disasters, struck a nation whose economy had been stagnant for 20 years while politicians fiddled and government floundered. But that’s not Sakanaka’s point. He is focused on demographics. “Japan,” he said in a recent telephone interview, “is on the brink of collapse.” […]

    No nation, barring war or plague, has ever shrunk at such a pace, and as for aging, there are no historical precedents of any kind. The nation needs a fountain of youth.

    Sakanaka claims to have found one.

    Japan, he said, “must welcome 10 million immigrants between now and 2050.” […]

    It sounds fantastic, and in fact, Sakanaka acknowledges, would require legislation now lacking — anti-discrimination laws above all.

    Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20121021x3.html
    ENDS

    52 Responses to “Sakanaka in Japan Times: Japan as we know it is doomed, only immigrants can save it”

    1. Johnny Says:

      Good to hear, but the reality is that Sakanaka is pissing into the wind with this sort of thing.

    2. Kirk Masden Says:

      Here’s a blurb from his Wikipedia page that indicates his long-term interest in immigration:

      自民党「外国人材交流推進議員連盟」(会長=中川秀直・元幹事長)がまとめた「日本の総人口の10%(約1000万人)を移民が占める『多民族共生国家』を今後50年間で目指す」と明記した日本の移民政策に関する提言案のブレーンである。「『移民国家ニッポン』を目指して行動を開始する旨の宣言文」と自らブログ中において位置づける著書「移民国家ニッポン-1000万人の移民が日本を救う」 の中で、移民1000万人受け入れへの具体策を示し、少子化や労働力不足の対策として、日本は移民に広く門戸を開くべきとの意見を述べている。
      http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/坂中英徳

      It says he was the “brain” behind the establishment of an LDP group studying Japanese immigration policy. It also mentions posts on his blog advocating Japan’s transition to an immigrant society. Here’s the blog address

      http://blog.livedoor.jp/jipi/

      and here’s a critique from a right-winger who hates Sakamoto’s proposals:

      http://www.shinjuku-hyakunin.com/archives/52047435.html

    3. Bob Says:

      The Japanese “elite” in my opinion, would rather see the country die a slow death than save it through immigration.

    4. Joe Says:

      It’s going to happen. Money is the key. Desegregation in the States, the collapse of the Communist bloc, capitalism in China, all due to the mighty dollar/pound/rouble etc. Japanese companies aren’t going to sit back and watch their workforce and their profits waste away when there’s an inexhaustible supply of fresh foreign talent out there.

      Much as I’d consider myself a Socialist, I’d have to admit that capitalism can do us all a favour in this case.

    5. Aladair Says:

      It’ll never happen. I believe most Japanese people *think*–maybe not when it actually happens, but by that time it will be far too late–economic collapse is a preferable outcome.

      Immigration (forget mass immigration!) is never even broached by the political pundits in the media.

    6. giantpanda Says:

      What about the other “unthinkable” – actually giving Japanese women equal rights and opportunities to participate in the workplace?

    7. Loverilakkuma Says:

      I am glad to see some Japanese like him who is calling for a drastic civil rights reform for NJ and immigrants. The biggest question is “who’s gonna be a major key player on this agenda?” Is there any politician like Charles Sumner, who can show the spirit of a political reform for his dedication to desegregation? It took almost 90 years for the US to make such a landmark achievement since the fall of 1875 Civil Rights Act. It’s anybody’s guess how much Japanese political system is better or worse than US Congress in Reconstruction Era, and if there’s anyone on the planet should it finally happen at the end of a century-long hiatus.

    8. DeBourca Says:

      Fair dues to the chap, but it will never happen. Ask yourself; why would anyone come to Japan to bring up a family?

      The only way it could feasibly happen is if the education system drastically changed; i.e by employing huge numbers of teachers from other countries, allowing them to teach in English and Chinese, maybe a few other languages, and allowing them to teach curicula from their native countries. Oh, and they have to stop working employees to death. Will either of these things happen?

      Of course not.

      So, Japan is doomed.

      People raising an international family here are being VERY shortsighted, IMO

    9. DeBourca Says:

      Just as an aside: I sincerely hope I’m wrong and people like Joe are right! People like Debito San and Sakanaka San are fighting the good fight.

    10. Rick Rosseau Says:

      Changing or setting up policies, if it ever happens, is only very first step on a long journey. Imagine what the average Japanese person would do if they suddenly were surrounded by foreigners instead of seeing maybe one or two a day. The Japanese peculiarities about communication with others, about living the “proper” way of life, are simply not compatible with the rest of world’s. Even South Koreans look like extremely relaxed, open-minded cosmopolitans next to their Japanese counterparts.
      If Japan opens up and immigrants start to settle down and bring their culture, most Japanese will probably so appalled by the “brashness” that they’ll stop leaving their houses and the economy is back to where it was. I am exaggerating of course, but I can’t even begin to estimate how long it would take to make Japan an immigration society modelled after European or North American countries. Anything less than a couple of hundred years would be a surprise.

    11. Jim Di Griz Says:

      Japan, he said, “must welcome 10 million immigrants between now and 2050.”

      I’m still laughing at that one! Not a hope in hell.

      I brought this up with two J-company presidents over dinner tonight, and they just looked at me blankly in silence, and then one of them said ‘Ah, he means as cheap labor’. I said ‘No, for the children’, to which they replied ‘But what help is that? Japan needs more Japanese children’.
      As an aside, we moved on to Japan’s record trade deficit for Sept, and they told me that there’s no problem, and the J-gov bonds bubble isn’t a worry, and neither is the risk of Japan defaulting on it’s 245% of GDP national debt because if the Japanese economy goes down, so does the world, so the world will just have to bail out the J-economy. They thought that was really hilarious.

    12. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Kirk #2

      Your second link is a bit frightening! Calling people ‘traitor’ for opening an immigration policy discussion, and when I saw China rendered as ‘Shina’ in Kanji, I could just feel the decades rolling back in his mind to the 1930’s.

      God, I just wish Japan would curtail this worship of right wing fascism that failed in 1945, just as they have in Germany. It doesn’t appear to have done Germany any harm to do so.

    13. Flyjin Says:

      @ Giant Panda, case in point in this Friday the 19th’s edition of South China Morning Post there is a Japan Special, entitled

      “Japan- Signs of Hope in the Future” (what, you mean there is no hope now but there might be in the future? But I jest).

      This blatant attempt at Japanese wishful thinking and propaganda (it comes with a glowing forward by the Japanese Consul, a dead giveaway) features articles on various Japanese companies investing in China. The pictures of the various CEOS are included, about 20 pics in all.

      Not ONE woman.

      The only pic of a woman is in an advertisement at the back for hair and beauty products.

      A Japanese woman’s place is still in the hostess bar, according to these Oyaji Patriarchs, it seems.

      – Well, this IS damage control after the Senkakus Dispute — so this is reassurance to the Chinese public that things are back to normal and everything is as we all remember. What, you want they should pay the media to say something revolutionary? :) For those who control the media or use it to influence a national discourse, revolution or reform is not the media’s role.

    14. Aaron Says:

      I think Jim nailed it. Those 10 million will be needed to fill the lower rungs of business and manufacturing. It’s similar to how CEOs inthe US rail about a lack of scientists and engineering talent. What they really mean is cheap talent, which they otherwise must acquire through offshoring/outsourcing or H1Bs. But even with such lowbrow objectives, letting more people in will change the shape of business in Japan. Right now there are simply too few NJs to be taken seriosly, Debito’s efforts notwithstanding. In any case, those newcomers will most likely come from developing countries like Brazil, Philippines, Peru, and various African nations.

    15. jim Says:

      here we go again with this same article, they’ve been talking about this forever but japan just doesn’t have the balls or the leadership to think outside the box like this say Singapore. if japan want to see an immigration success story then they should just copy Singapore’s example but again just talk and no action equals the same.

    16. Eric C Says:

      Sakanaka is out to lunch if he thinks that Japan is ever going to welcome even a tenth of the number of immigrants he is talking about, and you don’t have to read the nationalist screeds like the one kindly posted by Kirk Madsen (post #2) above to understand why.

      Let’s face it: No country in the developed world is as unsuitable to immigration and as unwelcoming to immigrants as Japan. Even if their antipathy does not extend to that displayed by the racists geezer who wrote the rant posted by Madsen, the average Japanese is simply not willing to have a large number of foreigners living in his midst. The main reason is because the Japanese have spent the last several decades soaking in a non-stop propaganda barrage that instills one basic message: We Japanese are different from all other races. The propaganda machine doesn’t have to fill in the next obvious blank: We are different and also superior. That is the always unstated but obvious conclusion.

      The Japanese couldn’t even accept the Brazilian Japanese who were brought in to work in the auto plants during the Bubble Era, and they were 100% ethnically Japanese. Does any rational person think they’ll be any happier with people who are visible minorities? As several posters on this thread observed: The Japanese have already made their decision on this point: They would much rather shrink into a stagnant and backward economic future as a Japanese-only island than live among foreigners.

      Of course, it’s worth pointing out several other things:

      1) The astonishing arrogance and cluelessness of guys like Sakanaka who are so convinced of the superiority of Japan and the Japanese that they actually believe the world is full of talented immigrants who can’t wait to move to Japan. That ship has sailed my friend! Back in the Bubble Era, yes, the best and the brightest did actually want to come to Japan. But Japan was so convinced that it would soon own the world that they felt no need to invite immigrants to the feast. Now, Japan would be lucky to choose from the dregs of the immigration market. The best and the brightest now want to go to Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, Australia or the United States. Why on earth would they want to come to a country with an opaque and arbitrary immigration system and xenophobic and insular culture, not to mention a stagnant economy? As DeBourca points out above: Anyone raising an international family in Japan is VERY shortsighted. For more on this, see my comments in the discussion thread of another Debito post here: http://www.debito.org/?p=10041

      2) Contrary to what Sakanaka and many foreigners believe, Japan doesn’t need immigrants. What it needs is a vastly improved education system and much better English skills, and perhaps a change in the laws that would allow dual nationality. All these would allow Japan to soak up information from the outside world, instead of being the echo chamber it presently is. But, as I say, the last thing Japan needs is immigrants. The main islands of Japan are already incredibly overcrowded. Without huge inputs of oil and imported food, the country cannot even feed its present population. And, has anybody heard the term Peak Oil? The supplies of oil are getting tighter and what’s left is more expensive to extract, not to mention the fact that countries like China and India are buying more oil than ever. Japan has no oil reserves to speak of, very limited renewable energy resources online (despite huge potential in hydroelectric and geothermal) and an inept and corrupt nuclear power sector. The smartest thing Japan could do right now would be to engineer a policy of “smart contraction,” involving the best practices in conservation, renewable and alternative energy, and intensive organic farming. Of course, you can be sure of only one thing: They will never adopt this approach. Japan’s present unelected government (the Ministries and the Keidanren etc) can be counted on to do the most regressive and foolish thing in every instance. What they’ll do is double down on the same idiotic policies that have brought them to this present pitch of economic stagnation, cultural backwardness and environmental disaster. It’s the only thing they know.

    17. GiantPanda Says:

      @Flyjin, I recently attended a Japan Business Conference sponsored in part by the Japanese government and attended by heads of all the major Japanese trading houses, politicians, academics and other VIPs. It was like a time-warp to the 1950’s. The program for attending spouses was constantly referred to as “the Ladies Program” (quite offensive to those female delegates whose husbands were there as attending spouses, but hey, there were less than 10 of us in a room of 500 old men).There were endless discussions about the demographic problem and how much infrastructure Japan was going to need for all those old people’s homes. But not once did anyone ask who was going to be changing the diapers in all those old people’s homes, not once did anyone mention the millions of highly educated and literate Japanese women who are missing from the labour force, and not once did anyone mention immigration.

      I was left with the unmistakable impression that the entire leadership (political and business) of the country is living with their heads stuck in the sand, pretending that robots will be enough to care for all the elderly, and desperately avoiding even a mention of the only two things that have a chance of pulling Japan out of the demographic nose dive it is facing.

      Ironically, the only female speaker at the entire three day event was a Japanese university professor. She gave the best and most thought provoking speech in the entire conference. When I spoke to her afterwards she said that she no longer lives in Japan, as she could not find a university willing to offer her a job.

    18. dude Says:

      To make a comparison – When President Obama entered office 4 years ago, he said he would change Washington D.C. How? Hope, of course. As it turns out, we now know that he was not able to change it. All the elected officials and hangers-on still behave as they have for decades. Change does not happen that easily. Why would it? Hope?

      Just like the politicians in D.C., the politicians and power elite in Japan know how things are done. The rules are known. The players are known. There are few, if any, wildcards. It took a long time for the ones at the top to get to the top. The ones near the top don’t want to lose their turn. Why would they agree to accept foreigners at any level? To them, this is an unknown and potentially destabilizing force. Just look at all the foreign crime caused by those Chinese (pun intended).

      If you want to change an organization, change the people in charge. But therein lies the problem. In Japan, the elite are bred, trained and indoctrinated to believe that they are superior, and the status quo should not be disturbed. You do not see women, mixed-race Japanese, or brilliant foreigners blazing a trail in Japan. Everybody knows their place. Harmony over all. ain’t it grand?

      So change is not happening in Japan. Japan is getting left behind. Despite how bleak things may look at the moment, it is just a matter of time until Japan starts to reverse direction. Even then, I doubt immigration will be among the suggested solutions.

    19. giantpanda Says:

      I should add, the trenchant opposition to any kind of free trade agreement that includes agricultural products and political paralysis and inability to take any steps involving actual leadership is going to do nothing but hasten the death rattles.
      FACT: The average age of Japanese farmers is now approximately 66 years old: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-15532816
      FACT: Japan cannot grow enough food to support its population – at the most it’s around 40%: http://www.japantoday.com/category/opinions/view/food-self-sufficiency-a-weak-argument-against-tpp-participation
      FACT: China and India, populations growing fast, are quickly snapping up agricultural land and food supplies to secure their futures: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/chinese-land-grab-tests-farming-dynasties/story-fn59niix-1226083089449
      Yet no Japanese political leader has the balls to stand up to JA and the average-age 66 year old agricultural lobby group and clinch a deal that would secure Japan’s food future. They would rather squander precious time trying to reach a consensus that will never be reached (at least not until these old geezers die off – at least another 30 years at the current life expectancies) than actually make a decision that disadvantages a vocal and nostalgic minority to the advantage of the majority.

    20. DeBourca Says:

      GiantPanda post 17:

      Befor I left Japan, I led a discussion with all my classes on the future. One of the subjects I asked them about was the aging society. In EVERY class, at least one student answered; “There will be robots to look after us when we get old”. This answer came from students, housewives, salarymen, across the board.

      Another question was on feelings towards other Asian countries,and the bigotry was rife.I wouldn’t accept this kind of thinking from six year olds, and these people were the ones who are internationally minded (they like travelling, want to work in tourism etc). This is the voting public.

      Eric C is bang on with the problem and the solution, which is why the only possible answer is education reform. Even if you get large scale immigration, the immigrants will not be well educated or highly skilled. So, the country will have to sort out immigants and natives educationally together.

    21. David Says:

      Problem for immigrants will be finding work in Japan. There are already millions of unemployed Japanese workers and the numbers keep increasing as manufacturing jobs go to China or other Asian nations and domestic construction work and government infrastructure projects get cut as budget crunches continue. Immigrants from China and Korea will find that the jobs they thought were in Japan have already been outsourced to Chengdu or Ansong, and there are plenty of Japanese citizens, young and jobless, who will compete with them for work at any level. Even manual labor jobs are in short supply, and Hello Work is filled with people who would work for minimum wage if they had the chance. Alas, there simply are not enough jobs for people already in Japan. More immigrants would lead to more unemployed people, and it would be a evil to bring in immigrants with hopes of economic success and then tell them that there is no employment for them. Creating an impoverished class of immigrants is not what Japan needs. It needs more jobs first.

    22. dude Says:

      DeBourca #20 – great insight. You hit it – the voting public really does not want immigration at all. They do not want foreigners, especially other Asians, “watering down” their pure Japanese culture. I think that is why they prefer to take in only a few at a time – so they can assimilate them into Japanese culture (not the other way around). Japan has never wanted a large group of organized foreigners resisting Japanese “values”…

      Education reform? Seriously? In what reality would this ever happen in Japan?

      The more likely scenario is that Japan will adjust to its new reality: declining power, aging population, less influence. On the positive side, Tokyo commutes will be faster…

      Japan and North Korea – two countries that refused to change. Kind of fitting.

    23. Eric C Says:

      @Dude #18 and 22

      I agree with you that the Japanese public doesn’t want immigration. Of couse they don’t. I read a poll a few years back where the majority of Japanese said they didn’t want foreign residents and something like 40% said they didn’t even want foreign tourists! I don’t think you’d find comparable figures anywhere else in the world.

      I also agree with your comments that education reform is about as likely as pigs sprouting wings and starting to fly. This is the problem with most solutions proposed for Japan: It would require the powers that be and the general population to suddenly act completely out of character.

      On this note, I’m puzzled by your statement in #18 that “Despite how bleak things may look at the moment, it is just a matter of time until Japan starts to reverse direction.” Your whole post up until that point argues (correctly) that real change is essentially impossible in Japan, then you suddenly come up with this strangely optimistic statement. I wonder why you think they’ll start reversing or changing direction. My feeling is that your post #20 is much closer to the reality: they’ll sputter and wheeze into a smaller and weaker power with no real change – just more of the same guaranteeing stagnation and decline. The only wildcard here is China: If China wishes, it’s possible that they might try some sort of economic, military or political annexation of Japan. Then, they might revitalize the Japanese economy, but it won’t be in the way that guys like Ishihara would wish for.

      @David #21: You’re exactly right: They don’t have enough jobs to keep the present Japanese population employed. Why bring in immigrants just to leave them unemployed? And you can believe that the employment situation in Japan will only get worse, as the chickens come home to roost from Japan’s execrable education system, lamentable English-language skills, corrupt and gerontocratic government, and insular population. Korea, China and the Asian Tigers are now sitting down to feast at the table that Japan chose to abandon out of sheer ignorance and inertia.

      – Eric, point of order: Unless you can cite an exact survey, please don’t generate rumors by citing ungrounded statistics.

    24. Jay Says:

      Dude, a declining population in the country overall would not mean faster Tokyo commutes. You’re oversimplifying just as David is above. First, the commutes: Tokyo continues to grow regardless of the depopulation in the countryside because people all over the world are moving into cities. That’s not a new trend. Second, the issue is not as simple as having more space to move around; we need people who are able to do jobs that the fewer (and aging) people won’t be able to do as well as support our social services. While it might be right that your typical voter doesn’t want foreigners around, but I bet a strategic immigration policy that, for example, encourages people with skills in agriculture and offered a homestead of some sort in exchange for a promise to live in whatever rural area would work fine. The people in those rural areas will take people. They’d love the help, the workers, the increased population supporting local businesses, the tax base that would support schools that have children in them again, etc. Those kids would probably eventually move to Tokyo, too, but that’s beside the point. Not all of them will. And this gets back to David’s point. Jobs are not finite. Increasing a population creates an opportunity for new work, new markets, new spending. It’s a bit ridiculous to think that these immigrants wouldn’t start new businesses while supporting existing ones. This is the same oversimplified argument that is popular here: why would we want more people? Japan’s already crowded. That’s not the point. Nothing is static–not culture, not economies, not what we think of as a nation. There is potential on these islands and unlocking that potential allows for a better life for everyone (potentially).

      Having said that, I don’t think this will happen. I think the time has passed for this even to be done successfully. In the future I think people will wish we had done it, but I think people have trouble seeing beyond their own preconceptions in order to see the big picture. Yet another way that Japan is not unique.

    25. Joe Says:

      @Eric C

      “The astonishing arrogance and cluelessness of guys like Sakanaka who are so convinced of the superiority of Japan and the Japanese that they actually believe the world is full of talented immigrants who can’t wait to move to Japan.”

      Surely he’s being the opposite of arrogant; recognising that Japan requires outside help and needs to get her act together in order to attract that help?

    26. Eric C Says:

      @ Joe #25

      Read my comment slowly and carefully. My point is that he’s being arrogant in believing that that many immigrants actually want to come to Japan. Is that so difficult to understand?

    27. David Says:

      #24 Jay, how are people from economically less-developed nations immigrating to Japan going to help increase employment of Japanese? Immigration must be economically, culturally and physically beneficial to Japanese citizens of ALL races and ethnicities to be successful. Simply bringing in unskilled workers from developing nations is not a recipe for job creation. If it is, please tell us how this happens. People arriving in Japan with no capital and no first-world job skills are not going to be employers until they gain a foothold in Japan, and that is not going to happen in the first year or two.

      Unlike a totalitarian state like communist China, Japan has no restrictions on people moving within the nation. People brought in to be in agriculture can easily ditch the farm and move to Osaka, Kyoto, Fukuoka or Tokyo for a job that pays in cash if they so desire. Hard to keep ambitious immigrants on the farm, since people are not tied to the land in Japan like they are in a totaliatarian state like China, North Korea or elsewhere. Many people want to move to cities. Even people born in Japan tend to move to the cities when they get a chance.

      My point is Japan needs to get its citizens employed and productive to create a good society that will attract immigrants. Economic refugees alone do not make for good immigration. Japan is fortunate that many people from developed nations want to come to Japan, marry Japanese citizens, created mixed-race children and live here. Many do, and that is a testament to the possibilities of Japan as it is today. A better economy will be even more open to more immigration. Experiments such as the Brazilian immigration opportunity came during a period of Japanese economic progress. Don’t expect a debt-ridden, unemployment-plagued Japan to welcome unskilled labor from non-G7 nations now. When things improve for the Japanese worker, immigration will be a reality again. Until then, time for Japan to fix its economic problems first. Putting Japanese women into the workplace in greater numbers and gettind rid of age discrimination in the workplace first will create a better economy that is more able to absorb unskilled workers later. Better yet, make it so that skilled workers and college graduates find the economy of Japan to be an attractive place to work. Making Japan a magnet for skilled workers is a much more progressive and forward-looking goal. Japan should never be allowed to import an underclass of uneducated, unskilled workers who may be exploited.

      – I think you should proofread and repost this ponderous musing. I’m having trouble grasping your point. Especially since you say, “Experiments such as the Brazilian immigration opportunity came during a period of Japanese economic progress.” Given that the past twenty years have been “lost decades,” this claim is ahistorical.

    28. Mike Says:

      “In any case, those newcomers will most likely come from developing countries like Brazil, Philippines, Peru, and various African nations.”

      True, Im a caucasin male, but usually cant get a job at places where foriegners from the above countries are employed. I personally think its about control. I actually had a Hello Work “counsler” inform me that Japanese dont discriminate against Americans. I asked, “oh? but you discriminate against others, right?” I actually want to work around other foriegners, Im sick of being the white clown gaijin all day or given some “special” treatment. It all boils down to the same thing in the end.

      “Even manual labor jobs are in short supply, and Hello Work is filled with people who would work for minimum wage if they had the chance. Alas, there simply are not enough jobs for people already in Japan.”

      Not true. There are many jobs in Japan, and Japanese will tell you this. They just cant pick and choose like they did before. Look around, hotels need staffed, dept stores, construction, roads, etc. There are thousands of jobs, and some pay good, but not for gaijin. If your refering to work for foriegners, then yes, that has dried up. There are plenty of jobs for japanese. Some Japanese just want some dream they were promised in the 90s with a bonuse ect, those jobs are rare. Japanese are clever when it comes to making work for themselves. the dept store (only one in my area) is packed everyday and every register staffed. The competition is shut out, so everybody must shop there. Sure those jobs dont pay much, but he/she can work at the register, in the pachinkos on the 1st floor, and all the shops around supporting the shopping center. Most Japanese just dont want to work there. I have taught English to many Sales and Technical engineers who make big money, those jobs are still in demand, but you must be japanese. I have been to interviews for those positions as well, but they dont want a forigner, even in a MNC, so I know there is a big demand for bilingual engineers here. What has moved to China is manufacturing, and those are low skilled jobs. There is still allot of manufacturing done in Japan that requires high skills.

      – I shudder to think that this is testament to your abilities as a teacher of English. Proofread if you want your points to be taken seriously (let alone approved) in future.

    29. nofj16 Says:

      Hi Debito, I’m here on one of my rare visits to things Japan related. Despite my treatment there I still have fond memories of some people, some places, damn good food, and a sense of (somewhat misguided) order that the world so desperately needs today. Just a few comments: (a) If my memory is correct I remember a report in the Daily Yomiuri (not exactly a font of humanity), about 2003 or so, saying Japan needed to import 36,000 new immigrants a month just to maintain production at 1990 levels. (Fat chance!) (b) Again, I remember various comments by Nagata-cho people during the same period announce proudly that there was ‘no discrimination in Japan’ and that NJ were protected by the Constitution, so no anti-discrimination legislation was required. Taro the Aso was one of them. (c) I have assessed that I no longer need to counter the Ishihara-led 2020 Olympic bid. The bid is already dead in the water. No matter how much they pump into it, or how many rosy press-releases Blinky or his cohorts make…it just ain’t gonna happen. I can’t, obviously, divulge sources, but it’s a non-starter. The prevailing feeling among folks who know is (according to my contacts with whom I was in Copenhagen last time ’round), is that Tokyo would be better off improving the stability of the problem of diffused radiation among its own citizens than to try to import people from around the world and send them all home to the four corners of the earth as modern-day ‘hibakusha’ of sorts. As always, but not as often these days, I check in to see what’s happening in Japan. And, as always, I continue to admire your tenacity and moral forthrightness. Over & Out: nofj16

    30. David Says:

      Debito, the immigration law amendments allowing unlimited entry of Nikkei Brazilian descendants up to the third generation were put into motion in 1989. This was in the midst of the Japanese bubble economy, where short-sighted people thought the good times would roll forever and tax revenues would rise to the moon. They were wrong, and the bubble collapsed just in time to welcome a wave of immigrants into economic hard times.

      It took the good times of the late 80s for Japan to experiment with relaxed immigration. The nation got burned by being short-sighted and foolish, and immigrants suffered along with the Japanese in a series of lost decades. So my point is not ahistorical. The law changes were done in 1989, in good times. Then, the bottom fell out of the Japanese economy.

      – All ahistorical. Check your dates and numbers of migrants/immigrants again. They didn’t come in one huge glurt. The mass migration of millions of NJ (including not only Nikkei, but also Chinese etc. under the “Trainee” and “Researcher” programs, which were also launched and amended in the 1990s) went on well into the 1990s, even after the official burst of the “Bubble” in 1991 — in other words, into the “lost decades” as well. This is why the registered NJ population doubled during that extended period, and not all at once.

      I have charted this in real time. Have you read much Debito.org over the years?

    31. David Says:

      What?

      “Not true. There are many jobs in Japan, and Japanese will tell you this.”

      Tell that to the large numbers of young people who are out of work, and to thousands of high school and college graduates of recent years who still cannot find employment.

      For immigration to work, young people of working age must be attracted to Japan. Unemployment rates in Japan for young people are nearly double the rate for the nation as a whole. Have you been to Hello Work recently and seen the crowds there? I have been there, and I am actively trying to help young people find work. So many of the job listings are actually vapor, and many people report going to interviews over and over and not finding work.

      Want some stats? Here are some links to articles that describe the unemployment crisis that is hitting young Japanese people hard. They are not happy, and unemployed people are not going to be supportive of immigration that means there will be more competition for jobs that are already in short supply.

      http://r25.yahoo.co.jp/fushigi/rxr_detail/?id=20120705-00024874-r25

      http://www.mhlw.go.jp/stf/houdou/2r9852000002jf5p.html

    32. David Says:

      Debito,

      I see your point. I thought you were saying that the 1989 enactment of the law was ahistorical, when it is clearly a fact. After reading your latest comment, I realize you are talking about the immigrants that came in after the law was amended. Points taken. Yes, the government went ahead and pushed on in a recession with a plan that was incubated and hatched during good times. They applied a “Good times” policy at a time when the economy had tanked. Typical bureaucratic nightmare policy implementation. No flexibility or adapting to changing times.

      – Okay, gotcha!

    33. Mei Nona Says:

      @David #31: The problem is not that there “aren’t jobs”, the problem is that, as in all developed and relatively affluent societies, “the jobs that exist aren’t ones that natives want to do, for the wages that companies want to pay”.

      If there “weren’t jobs”, there would not be Chinese or Thais or Filipinos working at every convenience store and behind the counters of most fast-food restaurants, as well as behind the scenes in factory and maintenance or service industry jobs.

      Jobs exist, but they aren’t “nice” jobs, they don’t pay much, and they require long hours or “unpopular” shifts such as night or weekend shifts. Young people raised in relative affluence don’t want to work jobs that force them to lower their standard of living and/or “crimp their lifestyle”. Fair enough – who does?

      But the fact remains that the jobs are there. This topic provides regular fodder for panel discussions on the boob tube where you have generation Y-Bother Japanese on one side complaining how they don’t want to work for minimum wage or be bossed around and business owners on the other complaining how they don’t want to deal with the visa issues but have no choice as they can’t get Japanese to work for them, or if they can they can’t get them to stay once they realize they have to actually “do work”.

    34. Jay Says:

      David (27), I never said that we should open the doors to unskilled workers. You’d be right there that having tons of unskilled workers would do very few people any good. I did cite, however, that we could focus on specific industries that need skilled workers (agriculture and forestry come to mind immediately) and those people (along with their families) will find work and make work. That’s what happens. Immigrant groups also tend to have more children (don’t tell the Js!) and one of the main points of an immigration program is our demographic problem. That was my point. These ‘trainee’ programs do nothing to really benefit society in the long run, but turning those schemes that bring people with skills (like the nurses) into Japan as real immigrants and not as people who we can get rid of later do have the potential to benefit society as a whole demographically as well as economically. My point, if you’d care to read the post again, had to do with this lack-of-work-for-citizens idea taken as if there is some finite number does nothing to help the argument against a proper immigration program because the economics of it are not based in reality. There is plenty of work in certain fields and having people move into those fields in a way that encourages them to settle down will support our economy, not deprive people of work.

    35. Rick Rosseau Says:

      On a (sarcastic) side note, one big complaint about Japan that I’ve often read is that after WWII, it built a deceptive image of itself as being a Western-style democracy, getting rid of its totalitarian aspects, i.e. finally introducing “enlightenment” into its culture. Having lived in Japan for a while now, I have come to the same insight – the positive reputation that Japan enjoyed up to 3-11 was mainly due to a mixture of false self-representation in order to be able to conduct business with the West, the cultural peculiarity of “never voicing your true opinion” among the tourists and emigrants visiting the West from Japan, and also a good part of wilful blindness on part of the Western people coming to Japan, myself included.
      I said “sarcastic”, because one positive effect of Japan visibly going back to its old ways is that the deception becomes less powerful. It won’t go away completely, but I think we will see the day when the only people left in the Western world who will sing Japan’s song will be the “Otaku” kids who like Japan’s pop culture. The image of “cool Japan” (which sounds so ridiculous now that I’ve lived here for a while – I can’t imagine a country less “cool’ than Japan) will go away, and then, what’s left?

      I’d love to hear from you guys who witnessed the bubble times – it is often said that Japan was a lot more open and “cool” back then, but back then I had no real interest so I didn’t read much about it. Care to share some stories how Japan was different then? Were you able to communicate more openly with the Japanese? Was the social interaction less awkward?

    36. Rick Rosseau Says:

      @Mei Nona (#33) I think the reason why the Japanese don’t want to work these jobs is because Japan’s situation is that they still have a choice – they don’t (yet) have to chose between poverty or that kind of job, often because they simply give up and live with their parents to keep expenses at a minimum.
      But if the economic situation gets worse enough, then you will see the Japanese take up those jobs they now look down upon. There are enough Japanese around to replace the immigrant workers.
      Compared to Germany after WWII, who invited the Turkish to work in the coal mines because there simply weren’t enough German men left to fill those positions, Japan will not see the same need for immigration.
      In Germany, it took two generations for the Turkish to work their way out of stigmatisation. Only since the last two decades, you see a considerable number of the children of Turkish immigrants become lawyers, doctors, and politicians. The majority oof younger Germans are ready to see beyond the immigration background and accept the fact that they are simply “Germans”. But it was a long, rocky road even for a relatively open country like Germany to get past the thought pattern of “us and them”, which wasn’t nearly as deeply ingrained into the German psyche as it still is in Japan.

    37. Mike Says:

      Yeah, Im at Hello Work every week. Plenty of jobs. I get interviewed, but they dont want gaijin, otherwise Im qualified. Young people cant find work because they arent experienced, or dont want to attend the multitude of free training and senmon gakkos for Japanese. Hello work even will pay for it in many cases. Your quoting stats, do you know about those programs? If a Japanese wants to work they can surely find it. This isnt Wyoming or the middle of China, the population density and need for services here is enormous. Many japanese cant find a job because they dont want to experience the drudgery of working as a shain, understandable, but this is their country and its what comes with the teritory. You dead wrong if you think there are no jobs, You dont need to go to hello work, just pick up any job magazine at the eki, hundreds of jobs in there. Sure, you might have to get a liscense or attend a school. I have done all that, and been intereviewed, Im too old and not the right nationality. Japanese wont apply for the positions I have been interviewed for. You dont nned to lecture me dude, get out there and try it for yourself.

    38. DeBourca Says:

      The last few posts are skirting around the issue. There may or may not be jobs, but the fact is that people aren”t having children! This is why immigration is needed. The reason why people aren”t having children is that Japan is a country completely unsuited to raising children due to exploitative working conditions, the commercialisation of every aspect of childhood and the relentless oppression of the development of one”s individual
      personality from a very young age. After food, sex and maybe shelter, the fundemental drive of most humans is to raise a family. If a society cannot even fulfil those basic needs, it cease to exist.

      Wearing my Jungian hat, I theorise that the Japanese nation is collectively engaged in an act of self-extinction.

    39. john k Says:

      According to some, only Females can save Japan now:

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20053254
      24 October 2012
      Japan’s women: Can they save the country’s economy?
      By Mariko Oi
      BBC News, Tokyo
      Japanese women’s participation in the workforce has increased albeit slowly

      When Fumiko Hayashi entered the workforce straight after graduating from high school in 1965, the only things she was allowed to do were “simple tasks as a man’s assistant”.

      Today, she is the mayor of the city of Yokohama and is one of the most powerful women in Japan with an impressive resume.

      Before becoming a politician, she served as the president of Tokyo Nissan Auto Sales, chairperson and chief executive officer of retailer Daiei, president of BMW Tokyo and president of Fahren Tokyo (now Volkswagen).

      However, her journey to the top was not an easy one.

      “I wanted to have the same responsibilities as men so I kept changing my jobs and finally became a salesperson at Honda,” she tells the BBC.

      It was very unusual for a woman to be working for a car company, let alone in the sales department.

      But what was even more unprecedented was that she became the top salesperson in her first year. Ten years later, she was offered a job by BMW Tokyo, followed by Volkswagen.

      “Looking back, the companies which initially trusted me with a management role were all non-Japanese,” she recalls.

      Lagging behind
      Ms Hayashi’s break with Honda came in 1977 when she was 31.

      While the number of women in managerial roles has increased since then, the ratio compared to men continues to remain low.

      “We still only account for about 1% of all the managers in the country,” says Ms Hayashi.

      Continue reading the main story
      Global Gender Gap Rank (Asia)

      6. New Zealand

      8. Philippines

      25. Australia

      55. Singapore

      69. China

      86. Bangladesh

      97: Indonesia

      100: Malaysia

      101: Japan

      Source: World Economic Forum

      That is one of many reasons why Japan ranks in the bottom quarter when it comes to gender equality.

      It ranks 101 out of 135 countries in the latest Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

      That is only four places above India which was rated in another poll by the Thomson Reuters Foundation as the worst country to be a women among the Group of 20 (G20) countries.

      The WEF report looks at how nations distribute resources and opportunities between men and women.

      In areas such as the number of female legislators, senior officials and managers, Japan is one of Asia’s worst performing countries.

      The report says it shows that “women still make up a fairly low percentage of the senior and highly skilled positions”.

      That is despite Japan investing heavily in women’s education.

      Along with Qatar, Mexico and Saudi Arabia, Japan is described as having “an untapped but educated talent pool and would have much to gain through women’s greater participation in the workforce”.

      ‘Womenomics’
      Japan’s female employment rate is at a record high of 60.1% according to the government’s statistics.

      But that is still much lower compared to men’s participation rate of 80%.

      Analysts say the gap is an opportunity for the authorities to boost the country’s economic growth.

      “If Japan could close its gender employment gap, we estimate that Japan’s workforce could expand by 8.2 million,” says Kathy Matsui, a Goldman Sachs strategist.

      Ms Matsui has been writing about the importance of women’s role in contributing to Japan’s economic growth since 1999.

      In her latest report she says that increased participation of women in the workforce could boost Japan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by as much as 15%.

      The International Monetary Fund’s first female Managing Director agrees.

      Christine Lagarde told reporters during the IMF World Bank annual meetings in Tokyo that “women could actually save Japan”.

      “Today you have five out of 10 Japanese women out of the job market, as opposed to two out of 10 men,” she said.

      While some critics argue that there may not be enough jobs in the country amid lacklustre economic growth in recent years, Ms Matsui of Goldman Sachs says an ageing population means there will be more opportunities available in the near future.

      In her report she says the proportion of elderly in Japan’s population will double by 2055 from the 2005 level and the number of workers will halve.

      She says the number of births are also set to fall to 40% during the same comparative period, further reducing the potential workforce.

      Role model
      However, getting more women into the workforce is just the first part of the battle.

      Keeping them there is likely to be another challenge. Nearly 70% of Japanese women leave the workforce after having their first child.

      “I used to think that they choose not to go back to work and some say it’s wired in Japanese women’s DNA to stay at home,” says Ms Matsui.

      “But I believe that it’s only because of insufficient childcare and nursing care support.”

      According to Goldman Sachs, less than a third of Japanese children under the age of three spend time at daycare centres.

      That is much lower compared to 63% in Denmark, 43% in France, and 40% in the US.

      The government has made some progress in expanding the number of facilities to accept more children but it is still not enough according to Ms Matsui.

      “It’s very difficult as a woman to continue working in Japan after having a child, so as a result, there are not many role models for young women to follow.”

      For the Yokohama mayor Fumiko Hayashi, the biggest hurdle she faced in her career was “the ‘no precedent’ factor”.

      In her new role in politics, she is working to ensure that coming generation of Japanese women do not have to face that.
      ENDS

    40. Mike Says:

      “I’d love to hear from you guys who witnessed the bubble times – it is often said that Japan was a lot more open and “cool” back then, but back then I had no real interest so I didn’t read much about it. Care to share some stories how Japan was different then? Were you able to communicate more openly with the Japanese? Was the social interaction less awkward?”

      Japan was much more open. Iranians filled the parks, thousands of them. Street vendors from all over everywhere. There were “gaijin” street perfomers in Shinjuku. English schools were booming. Roppongi was packed full of foriengers. Its all changed.

      I guess the lattest and greatest news is that ishihara is expected to resign as mayor and form his own party. Within that party he will become PM for sure. Things go from bad to worse.

    41. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ DeBourca #38

      ‘I theorise that the Japanese nation is collectively engaged in an act of self-extinction.’

      I agree. I’ve said as much on Debito.org before; I believe that the Japanese would prefer a ‘pure’ finale to their imaginary ‘Japanese race’ (as defined by popular J-understanding), than take any other action. After all, it was the attitude incultrated in them by the nations leaders in 1944/’45, it wouldn’t be the first time that they chose (were hoodwinked into) that path.

    42. DeBourca Says:

      RE: the repeated attempts to get the women of Japan into the workforce: This will never work. Why would any Japanese woman voluntarily enter a career with a Japanese company? They watch what their menfolk have to endure, and they know they will have to work twice as hard to come anywhere near parity. Most women with careers in Japan that I know have no lives outside of thier jobs. The have no relationships, no children and/or broken marriages and they get paid peanuts for the hours they put in. As I have said, this is just skating around the real issues (namely education and social/employment practices)

    43. Baudrillard Says:

      ‘I theorise that the Japanese nation is collectively engaged in an act of self-extinction.’

      I nominate the nation of Japan (or at least Tokyo, for constantly voting in Blinky) for a Dejima Award!

      After all, as Lennon quoting Mao said, only the people can change the people!

      As for the Bubble and the 80s, I was there and it was fun, but it was fun fueled by money. We pampered, visiting VIP gaijin tended to overlook odd curiosities such as the odd person who “refused to talk to gaijin, I am sorry he is not interested in foreigners etc” as “culture” or exceptions.

      The seeds of xenophobia have always been there. “Scratch the western veneer of Japan and it is still pre Meiji era, Tokugawa Shogunate” (Powers, Working in Japan, 1990).

    44. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      This is going to be a long post, but in John K’s post he quotes an article that references the Global Gender Gap Index. This index uses biased statistical methods to (among other things) unfairly malign Japan and Japanese society, and deserves to be refuted at length with appropriate direct quotes. So if you’re not in the mood for a long post, feel free to skim over this one.

      John, this is no criticism of you, of course, but the BBC should know better than to base their journalism on a flawed, biased, and frankly disgusting methodology that is basically female supremacism in disguise.

      Think those words are harsh? Read the original for yourself:

      http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GenderGap_Report_2012.pdf

      In a nutshell, the only “gaps” they care about are when women trail men. When men trail women, not only is the gap not acknowledged, but the country in question receives perfect marks and the “gap” is considered “closed”!

      From page 4: Our aim is to focus on whether the gap between women and men in the chosen variables has declined, rather than whether women are “winning” the “battle of the sexes”. Hence, the Index rewards countries that reach the point where outcomes for women equal those for men, but it
      neither rewards nor penalizes cases in which women are
      outperforming men in particular variables.

      So discrimination in favor of men is to be eradicated, but areas where women benefit from discrimination in their favor don’t count against the index.

      Bridging pages 4 and 5: To capture gender equality, two possible scales were considered. One was a negative-positive scale capturing the size and direction of the gender gap. This scale penalizes either men’s advantage over women or women’s advantage over men, and gives the highest points to absolute equality. The second choice was a one-sided scale that measures how close women are to reaching parity with men but does not reward or penalize countries for having a gender gap in the other direction. Thus, it does not reward countries for having exceeded the parity benchmark. We find the one-sided scale more appropriate for our purposes.

      The chart on these pages makes this clear: it’s female accomplishment divided by male accomplishment; the higher, the better, and ratios over 1 are not seen as bad.

      From page 19, discussing educational achievement: In Norway, Sweden and Iceland there are over 1.5 women for every man enrolled in tertiary education… The Nordic countries also exhibit very high healthy life expectancies for both women and men, with women living, on average, three to four healthy years longer than men.

      Fifty percent more women than men in tertiary education, and this earns a perfect score!? This is “junk science” of the highest order. In Japan, where women are under-represented among top business leaders and in management positions, the men who reached those heights typically paid a huge price in the form of overtime labor, and this is reflected in the life expectancy gap in which women outlive men by nearly seven years. (This asymmetry earns Japan a perfect 1.0 on that part of the index!)

      Japan does have some anti-female sexism in the workplace, and efforts to make the topmost levels more open to women are to be encouraged. But this index is no way to support that. No Japanese person should feel one whit of embarrassment at ranking 101st in such a flawed, biased study.

    45. Flyjin Says:

      I do concur with comment #40, in the bubble years, even the tail end, English schools were booming. I always think of an American friend from those times, who used to hand out 10 000 yen bills as if it was nothing-he quit a full time job to take a more lucrative part time job from 5 pm to 10 pm at ASA school, a salon which went bankrupt as the bubble ended.Sometimes curious ojisans would send over drinks to us in bars just because we were foreigners. We could get into clubs because foreigners made the club look good. This lasted until about 1992 or so. After that, things got a bit more mixed.

      And so we could overlook the odd racist comment, especially if it was not at our expense along the lines of “I dont like Koreans, I was once deceived by a Korean man on price etc, blah blah ZZZ” as we Caucasians and then, post MC Hammer, the black guys, were too busy earning money and partying. in fact, if you griped,your fellow NJs would look pained, even say that you were being “rude” for not respecting the hosts. Yes, you were guests in Japan in the bubble. Has this attitude really ever gone away?

      But in actual fact to answer Mikes question, was social interaction less awkward? God no, it was worse. Because in those days some people were allowed to “not like foreigners” and others would apologize on their behalf.

      Or should I say,it was more extreme. NJs being less common up until 1992 or so, we were objects and guests of curiosity, and therefore excused of any cultural faux pas or wild behavior.So we would have our fan club, but we would have a few haters who “did not like “gaijin”. I remember this gay guy telling of being turned down in an Osakan disco “I am sorry I do not like gaijin…” This was used as an excuse to not even TALK to someone. A complete refusal of any interaction whatsoever. Othering to the point of ignoring the existence of.

      In the 2000s, it was far more difficult to act up and get away with it. NJs had outstayed their welcome as “guests”.The fad had ended, the novelty had worn off. Now NJs were seem as “mendokusai”. I would like to argue that post 2000 the people remaining interested in communicating with NJS were more intelligent, more travelled but this is hard to prove as there will always be the free English lesson contingent, or the “gaijin as commodity fetishist” (eg. someone reading a French novel wants to meet a French person, etc).

      Of course, if you bothered to learn Japanese then you could have a better quality of relationship, while also still encountering more bigots whose racist comments you did not comprehend before you leanrt Japanese.

      Even then though there was the odd ominous undercurrent, the Japanese business executive who “was not interested in doing business with foreigners, sorry. I know you will accept that we Japanese are different zzz”, or that old chestnut, the Real Estate Agent Who Is Not Racist, but whose clients were. I remember one agent trying to find an apartment on my behalf, out of 28 properties, only 4 said “gaijin OK” and he tried so hard to sell it as “Its a western English teacher so he is OK”. This was in 1991. My ex really tried hard to rationalize that one away along the lines of “culture.”

      Around 1993 an article appeared in The Japan Times that concluded “Why should Japan reap the benefits of G7 membership but not be held to the same norms?” Long before Ishihara and his ilk, but the tone, the atmosphere, was the same. By this point I had started to see the dark side, but my J ex once again, in a long letter, really rationalized it away along the lines of “it only refers to “bad” foreigners, not you”.

      But time and again if you got into a minor dispute with any random Japanese person, often they would spout stuff like, “I will report any “bad” foreigner (who doesnt do what I want) to immigration”- there was widespread belief that Japanese people had this power, later confirmed in the 2000s with the snitch sites.

      And in the 2000s, the party was definitely over.

    46. Blackrat Says:

      Flyjin really said most of what I wanted to. I was in Japan from 1985-2003, then again until earlier this year when I finally left for good. Until the early 90s, it was quite common for kids to taunt us as we walked home. The prejudice was there, but maybe it got worse as time went on. Way back in 1986, I was living in a “gaikokujin house” and dozens of kids from the local elementary school used to gather outside and yell abuse. It became quite nasty, and only when we complained to the school via the house manager did it end. The principal of the school came with some of the ringleaders and made them apologise. From the mid-90s on, I would say kids tended to ignore us as seeing westerners became more commonplace I suppose. Another phenomenon of Japanese “language bandits” approaching you on the train and trying to practice English also seemed to decline from about this time. The attitude of many Japanese towards foreigners seems to mirror what has happened in European countries such as Spain and Greece. As the economy declines, immigrants have been less welcome, and racist abuse has increased.

      Immigration is perhaps the only way to reverse the decline, but I sincerely hope it is managed properly. In the UK since the late 90s, uncontrolled immigration has created its own problems and increasing fear and hostility from many quarters. In Greece, one of the fastest growing parties is openly racist, some would call it fascist. Ishihara’s decision to resign as governor means this vile man will return to the Diet and God knows what will happen to Japan if his new party prospers.

    47. Flyjin Says:

      @ Blackrat, your comment eerily echoes one case I had forgotten in the early 90s of a blonde Australian teacher who was married to a Japanese man in Kawasaki (dodgy area). She said the kids of Higashi Tachibana Junior High School used to throw stones at her and yell “Keto!” (“straw Hair”, I have received this epithet too) as she cycled past every day. In the end her husband had to go complain to the school; “will you please stop throwing stones at my wife?”

      Swings and roundabouts, as you say. As the economy worsens, so do attitudes to foreigners; except in Japan’s case, this doesnt gel with the incidents you and I have just described. They have always taken place but been glossed or explained over as “exceptions”. Even my grandfather told me, long before I went to Japan, “The Japanese are very xenophobic” but of course being young and naive I thought it MUST have changed since his day. Surely he was describing WW2 era Japan, the Japan he fought against so naturally he would say that.

      But I was wrong.

      Its difficult to make blanket summaries like “It was better in the 80s” but perhaps we can say

      80s-Gaijin tolerated or even treated well as VIP guests and partgoers as plenty of money around (though some holdouts still hate or ignore us. We just pput it down to jealousy/sour grapes/some bitter experience with an NJ they imagined they once had).

      90s-gaijin still tolerated as guests as although less money around, some people were trying to break out of the salaryman mode and be open minded (my take on it).Less curiosity about gaijins.

      2000s- As economy tanks further, Ishihara ends the party and gaijins get no VIP treatment or rights, but are increasingly being taxed as locals while still being discriminated against. NJs grudgingly allowed to stay as immigrants in Japan as tax payers for low wages needed. You can definitely no longer get free entrance into a club by virtue of being an NJ!In fact, you might be charged extra!

      Plus ca change, c’est plus la meme chose. “A proverb making the observation that turbulent changes do not affect reality on a deeper level other than to cement the status quo.” Not that I would say that Japan has made any “turbulent” changes, other than the force majeure events of last year.But I suppose to the deeply conservative Oyajis running the show, even a slight surface change in attitudes like accepting an NJ or giving them local voting rights etc, IS a “turbulent change”.

      – For the record, I think the word 毛唐 (ketou) you are referring to literally means “Hairy Chinese,” not “straw hair.” It became a historical racist epithet for non-Asian NJ, however.

    48. AM Says:

      @Mark in Yayoi –

      Yes, in Japan there are folks claiming that Japan doesn’t give “equal-pay”, but to calculate that one needs to factor in: revenue to the company.

      In the rational world annual compensation is logically a fraction of the annual revenue you bring in to the company (the unfortunate reality is: the standard fraction is 10%, which means the company gets 90% of the revenue each worker produces annually.)

      If full-time working men in Japan bring in on average 4000万円 revenue each to the company annually, they should receive on average 400万円 each in annual compensation.

      If full-time working women in Japan bring in on average 3000万円 revenue each to the company annually, they should receive on average 300万円 each in annual compensation.

      As long as both genders in Japan are receiving 10% of the annual revenue they bring in to the company, then both genders in Japan are already receiving “equal-pay”.

    49. Joe Says:

      @Flyjin

      “…gaijins get no VIP treatment or rights, but are increasingly being taxed as local….

      Do you mean each gaijin has to pay more individually, or that more gaijins are paying tax? Has there been a law change?

      I’d love to hear the name of a club where foreigners have to pay higher entrance fees than Japanese. Bet Debito would too.

      – Sure would.

    50. Flyjin Says:

      @ Joe

      About tax, I specifically refer to the carefree days in the 80s where 1. NJs were not press ganged into joining Kokumin Kenco hoken and paying years of backed up insurance to the city or ward where they lived; this started to happened around 1999.
      2. City tax. In the 80s, it was possible to escape this by simply moving house and not be particularly chased. It was also lower in those days. It also depended where you lived, and of course there was no attempt, as there was recently but narrowly reversed, to pass a new law tying visa renewal with all taxes being paid up to date.

      In the last decade or so, authorities have become much more stringent in getting NJs to pay up, even if you have non Japanese insurance and therefore do technically have”a form of insurance” which is all the vaguely worded original Japanese law required people to have (because in those days there only WAS Kokumin Kenko Hoken and shakai hoken- lawmakers did not envisage hordes of NJs coming along with their own insurance plans from abroad).

      2. A club that charges more. OK, the now defunct King and Queen in Kawasaki was definitely charged NJs for the privilege of coming in, but also it is standard practice at many hostess bars to even over charge a non regular or “member” if they want to deliberately want to discourage them from coming again.

      I am not just speaking from experience, in the case of point #2, Boye De Mente wrote about it.

    51. Rick Rosseau Says:

      As I’m the guy who asked, I’d just like to thank everybody for their takes on the bubble era. Very interesting. Xenophobia is a fear – I wonder why the East Asians have always been so fearful of the different, while other “old” cultures have usually (with some grave exceptions) embraced people from other places.

    52. john k Says:

      I can’t say im surprised by these findings at all..except that it has taken this long for ‘outside’ media to notice and report it and no mention of NJs for once to blame:
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20150364

      “..Japan has spent funds intended for reconstruction after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami on unrelated projects, a government audit has found.

      Projects financed by the $150bn (£93bn) fund include roads in Okinawa, an ad campaign for Japan’s tallest building and support for whaling research..”

      Recovery….yeah right!

      – I’ll have this issue up as my next blog post, so hold your comments on that until then!

    Leave a Reply